Bisonalities Again


A quarterly Newsletter dedicated to the Alumni of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools
April 2013------------------------------------------ Spring Issue ------------------------ Volume 14 - Number 3

Welcome to the Bisonalities, Again, a newsletter dedicated to the alumni (students, teachers, and administrators) of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools. This newsletter will be issued quarterly. New issues will be posted for viewing on the Web site on, or about January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

The Bisonalities, Again Web site may be viewed by going to:

The success of this newsletter will depend on you. I need contributors. Do you have an interesting article, a nostalgia item, a real life story, or a picture you would like to share with other alumni? Do you have a snail-mail or an e-mail address of one of your former classmates? If you do, please send it to me at the following e-mail address:
or at my snail-mail address:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
Tel: (301) 535-9263
Fax: (301) 375-9250

Please, NO handwritten submissions.

The Bisonalities, Again Newsletter is available to any and all alumni, teachers, and administrators of Waterford or Fort LeBoeuf High Schools on the Web site, free.

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If you are reading this newsletter on-line and would like a printable version of it, a PDF version is available on the web site. That is, a file that can be read and displayed by the FREE Adobe File Reader. This will allow you to print the newsletter exactly as if you had received it by snail-mail. If you would like a PDF copy of the newsletter, it is located on the Main Menu under "Past Issues Bisonalities Again."

Bob Catlin - Class of 1956

Cat's Corner

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris',
I wonder where the birdie is?
There he is up in the sky.
He dropped some whitewash in my eye!
I'm alright, I won't cry,
I'm just glad that elephants can't fly!

My boat is back out of mothballs and the fishing season has started (and sadly so has the yard mowing season). I made the first trip out onto Mattawoman Creek on the 10th of March and have been getting out, weather allowing, on average of three times a week. The yellow perch, white perch, hard heads, catfish and large mouth bass are literally jumping in the boat.

The article, "Think before you donate" published in the winter issue of the Bisonalities Again had a lot of invalid information. Several alumni have pointed out that I should have checked the article with Snopes for authenticity. I extend my apologies to all for publishing this unsubstantiated article. I have deleted the article from the winter issue and then reposted the issue to the web site. If you wish to check whether a charity you are going to donate to is legitimate or not, you can go to:

The one-liners between stories were received from three different alumni on the same day and are titled, "clever quotes!"

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes
that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.
David Letterman
Terri Lee Przybylak Ward FLBHS 1971
Kelly Winston Uhrmacher FLBHS 1983
Robert Briggs FLBHS 1957
Robert Krieger, Jr. FLBHS2003
Thom Brown Principal  
Thora Haynes Osborn WHS 1946
Duane Wade FLBSD Bus Driver  
Helen Heffner Stiner WHS 1936
Lavina Thompson Hughes WHS 1946
Richard Kestle WHS 1947
Jason Morton FLBHS1999
Jim Grumblatt FLBHS 1961
Kasson Crooker FLBHS1961
Carl Blum FLBHS 1962
Donald Fox WHS1948
Grace Jones Osborn WHS 1937
A trip back to 1955
Received from Sandra Clark - FLBHS Class of 1972

Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging 4 cents just to mail a letter?

If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.

When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 25 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage.

I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying DAMN in Gone With The Wind, it seems every new movie has either HELL or DAMN in it.

I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas.

Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $50,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the President.

I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They're even making electric typewriters now.

It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.

It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.

I'm afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.

Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to government.

The fast food restaurant is convenient for a quick meal, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.

There is no sense going on short trips anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $2.00 a night to stay in a hotel.

No one can afford to be sick anymore. At $15.00 a day in the hospital, it's too rich for my blood.

If they think I'll pay 30 cents for a haircut, forget it.

The only reason they say 'Women and children first' is to test the strength of the lifeboats.
Jean Kerr
Life is now easy
By Wes Nicklas - WHS class of 1954

Frustration was not unknown while I was a member of the class of 1954.

Before beginning this rant, a few guidelines: This is about guys girls are totally another story. It is about our class mostly, with only a few exceptions.

Brains: Walden, Hart, Hunt, and Hazen topped the list. No chance here. There is something about names starting with H. No hope here.

Jocks: Shields, Skiff, Scott and Powell (when his arm was not broken) lead the list. Not even close. Lots of S words here.

Class Clowns: The most important category: Cross, Hart, Verbanic, Skiff. I may have left out other entries. Platz?

Owned Cars: Morrow, Brace, Hunt, and Cross come to mind.

Most paying jobs: No contest, it had to be Cross. Can't count farm boys even tho they did the most work. I received a few jobs when the Cross gang was on overload -- wasn't much of a job hunter.

Hunting: Skiff, Powell, and Verbanic are included. The shotgun was never my thing.

Dancing: Lets not even talk about this.

Writing, as in Bisonalities Again: Herb Walden was good, but Joe Leech was superb in his last story about returning to Waterford. He wrote the story like he was alone and returning to his home town. Good creative writing and most if it was probably true.

Snow: We were all tied here and it must have been a character builder.

I guess the point of all this rambling is that life is much easier once one moves away from all this competition.

Now that this is off my bucket list, if anyone wants to argue, I can be reached at:

You know you're a redneck if your home has wheels and your car doesn't.
Jeff Foxworthy
Tarmacs I have known - La Paz, Bolivia
By Bob Catlin - FLBHS Class of 1956

One of the many jobs I had during my 35 plus years of federal government service was working as one of three part-time Diplomatic Couriers. Below is the story of one of my many courier trips.

On Thursday, November 15, 1984, I was sitting at my desk at the Department of State when I received a call from the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications (DASC) directing me to report to his office.

When I arrived in his office he asked me if I was willing to travel to La Paz, Bolivia for a three-day TDY trip to deliver emergency, Top Secret, battery operated communications equipment that was needed there. After delivery of the equipment I would be required to stay for a day or two, to train embassy personnel in its operation, and then would return home.

He went on to say that the Department of State had received word that the Bolivian miners were going on strike on the 22nd of November. When this happened in the past all the other labor groups in the country honored the strike and refuse to work. Also, from past experience within days of the start of the strike the electricity and water was usually shut off to the American Embassy. The ambassador was then unable to communicate with the secretary of state.

The equipment that was needed for this emergency could either be operated on commercial power or, for short periods of time, on a battery pack. The DASC wanted me to deliver two pouches of the equipment that included a secure radio system, capable for Top Secret communications, a portable roof top antenna, a fax machine that operated in secure mode, and several battery packs and chargers.

The DASC called our engineer division and asked them to get the package together for Monday, November 19, and have it at Washington National Airport for me to take an early morning flight to La Paz, Bolivia.

On Friday I went down to the health unit and took a lung capacity test to see if I could handle the altitude in La Paz. The embassy in La Paz is located at approximately 12,250 feet above sea level and the airport is at 13,300 feet above sea level. After passing the test I went to the Bolivian Embassy in Washington, DC with my identification, travel orders, and Diplomatic Passport to obtain a 21-day visa to enter and depart Bolivia at the city of La Paz.

Early Monday morning I was at National Airport when the engineers arrived with the pouches of equipment. I confirmed my first class seat for the trip to Miami, signed for the pouches, waited for them to be loaded into the belly of the aircraft, and immediately boarded the aircraft.

The flight to Miami was uneventful.

Upon arrival in Miami I departed the aircraft directly to the tarmac and retrieved my pouches from the belly of the aircraft and proceeded to customs to process them through to La Paz. Upon arrival at customs I was told that my office wanted to speak to me and that I should immediately call back to Washington.

The DASC informed me that the strike had started at midnight Sunday, several days earlier than anticipated, and that the Bolivian Government had immediately shut down the airport, except to emergency flights. He asked me to proceed to the American Embassy in Panama City, Panama where I would receive further orders.

The customs officials took charge of my pouches and I went to the ticket counter to see if I could get a flight to Panama. Three hours later, with the pouches now in my control, I was on my way to Panama.

I arrived in Panama and was met by American Embassy personnel and immediately taken to see the ambassador. He said he had arranged with the ambassador in Quito, Ecuador for me to fly, in the ambassador's private aircraft, from Quito to La Paz. In addition, he had arranged with the U.S. Air Force for me to fly in a military aircraft from Panama to Quito. (This arrangement was made because at that time the only way to fly commercially from Panama to Quito was through Miami.) He assured me that the Department of State had received permission from the Bolivian Government for us to land at the closed airport in La Paz.

I spent that night in Panama and the next morning took off in a U.S. Army C-130 for Quito. There was me, my pouches, and several tons of equipment headed to Quito for the "War on Drugs" effort in Ecuador. It was a flight to remember (or try to forget).

When I arrived in Quito I was met by U.S. Embassy personnel and taken to the ambassador's office. He arranged for me to leave immediately for La Paz in a twin engine six-seat aircraft (I do not remember the make or model).

I was then taken to the airport, where I loaded my pouches in two of the seats and I took one of the other seats. The ambassador's pilot and a DEA co-pilot were in the air plane ready to go. We took off down the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Basin. Because of the threat of storms along the mountain range the flight plan was to fly several hundred miles east of the Andes along the Amazon Basin.

The pilot had contact with the air traffic controllers in Ecuador for about the first hour and then was told to contact the air traffic controllers in Brazil for further instructions.

If you have never flown over the Amazon Basin you cannot believe just how vast and empty it looks from way above.

The co-pilot started broadcasting about every 10 minutes trying to contact the Brazilian air traffic controllers for further instructions. After about two hours, and no contact, he made radio contact with a missionary in the jungle who was monitoring his calls. In a lengthy conversation, the missionary mentioned that he had been with the natives in the Amazon Basin for nearly 12 years and had a very large antenna field that was put up by the natives in the tree tops above the jungle canopy. He said he had a "powerful" radio that he assured us he could reach the Brazilian air traffic controllers with, but suggested that when he turned up the power we may want to have our radio turned off, just in case he over powered it and blew it out. He suggested he be given 15 minutes and then call him back.

Fifteen minutes later the co-pilot again contacted the missionary. He reported that he had make contact with the air traffic controllers. He was able to obtain instructions from them for our new heading and informed us that we should contact air traffic control in Bolivia next.

About 30 minutes out of La Paz the co-pilot again started calling air traffic control every two minutes for landing instructions. No one answered his call. He was just minutes from the airport and within sight of it when a set of runway lights were turned on. There was still no response. The pilot took this as an okay to land and in we went. He taxied to the end of the runway, helped me take the pouches out of the aircraft, revved up his engines and took off for Peru to get fuel for the trip back to Quito.

There I sat, with two Top Secret pouches and my personal suit case several hundred yards from the airport terminal. After a couple minutes trying to decide what to do, I saw a large vehicle came through the fence along side one of the hangers and sped down the runway toward me. It was U.S. Embassy personnel. They had been waiting several hours for my arrival and were about to give up when they saw the runway lights come on and us land.

They whisked me out of the airport, without going through customs, which was closed because of the strike, and took me to the embassy where I dropped off my pouches. They then took me to a hotel about eight blocks down the hill from the embassy --- understand everything in La Paz is either up hill from or down hill from.

After I checked in and dropped off my bags they took me to dinner at a local restaurant and then took me back to the hotel.

When they took me back to the hotel, they handed me a small canvas bag with two personal size bottles of oxygen with built in face masks. I asked what this is for and they said you will know before morning comes.

Boy, were they right! About 2:00 a.m. I woke up gasping for breath with a headache that felt like someone was inside my head trying to get out with an ice pick. I grabbed one of the small oxygen tanks, turned it on, and immediately started taking oxygen. In a few minutes I was able to go back to sleep, but about every two hours I woke up for another shot of oxygen.

The oxygen tanks again came in handy the next morning when I got up and went down to breakfast in the hotel and then started the eight block walk up hill to the embassy. I could only walk a couple blocks before I was so out of breath and I felt like I was going to pass out. A minute or two of oxygen and I was on my way for another block or two.

After arriving at the embassy I unpacked the two pouches and went up on the roof and set up the antenna. I then programmed the frequencies in the radio devices and contacted the Department of State.

Included in the pouches were four back up battery packs and four battery chargers. Because embassy personnel lived down the mountain several miles and rarely lost their electricity when the embassy did, they took the battery chargers and batteries home with them every night and returned them the next morning, in case we needed them.

I was supposed to stay only long enough to set up the equipment and train embassy personnel in its operation and then return home, but because the airport was closed I was there until it reopened.

The next day was Thanksgiving and I was invited to the ambassador's residence for dinner. At about three that afternoon the Ambassador's chauffer was waiting for me at the front of the hotel and took me down the mountain to the residence for a great evening of music, great food, and camaraderie.

By the fifth day of the strike all the restaurants in town started running out of food. The embassy had a cafeteria that was open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., so I was able to eat breakfast and lunch.

The only food available in the restaurants around town was coffee, soda drinks, and cheese sandwiches. You could have a sandwich fixed any way you wanted it, as long as it was cheese.

The sixth night I was there I left the embassy about 6:00 p.m. and started down the hill to my hotel. I had just rounded the corner from the embassy onto the street leading to my hotel when I heard a lot of screaming and glass breaking. The miners were rioting about two blocks down the street from that corner and were breaking out car and store windows. I immediately turned around and ducked back in the embassy and waited for them to pass.

The strike lasted for ten days. The morning after the strike ended I packed up the equipment and started the hotel check out process.

As a result of the strike the Bolivian government devalued the Peso Boliviano. Before the strike the exchange rate was 125 Boliviano to the dollar --- after the strike the exchange rate was 1250 Boliviano to the dollar. Also, at that time, the largest Boliviano bill was 100 Boliviano.

When I checked out of the hotel I owed $1,343 U.S. Dollars or 1,678,750 Boliviano. In 100 Boliviano that was 167,875 bills. The hotel would not accept my traveler's checks, a check drawn on a U.S. Bank, or my Department of State charge card.

I went to the embassy and informed them of my dilemma. The finance officer took me, with a small canvas bag, to the nearest bank and helped me obtain the needed Boliviano. The bills were stacked in 1000 Boliviano bills to a stack with rubber bands around each stack (17 stacks). They sold me the exact amount I needed. So off to the hotel I went. I gave them the bag. They took out the stacks, opened each one, and began to count them, several times. Two and a half hours later they gave me a receipt and I was free to leave for the airport.

Stack of Boliviano

One stack of Peso Boliviano
(That's a U.S. Dollar bill in front of the stack.)

At the airport there was an exit fee to leave the country of 25 Boliviano that had to be paid in Boliviano. I had kept a 100 Boliviano note as a souvenir of the trip so luckily had the money to pay the fee.

The trip back home was uneventful but I came to one conclusion from this trip; If God ever decides to give the world an enema, he is going to stick it right in the center of La Paz.

I never did get used to the altitude.

See you all next issue!

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